Vinyl Record Sales Have Officially Outpaced CD Profits in the United States
This hasn't happened since the 1980s.
In the era of popular music streaming services and livestream or televised concerts, there's something nostalgic about listening to your favorite artist on a physical vinyl record or CD. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the former strikes a different chord than the latter: Vinyl sales outpaced CD sales in the United States for the first time since the 1980s. A recent report from the RIAA revealed that vinyl record sales made up $232.1 million in music sales in the first six months of 2020, whereas CD sales only accounted for $129.9 million.
Despite the rise in nostalgic records, music streaming still dominated. Paid streaming, ad-supported streaming, and streaming radio, services offered by Spotify and Apple Music, rose by 12 percent to $4.8 billion in the first half of the year. "Subscription services were the big beneficiaries in the early weeks of the pandemic, as people spent an extraordinary amount of time at home," according to the report.
It's clear that during these tumultuous times, people need music more now than ever. In a consumer study conducted by the RIAA, 73 percent of those surveyed said "they would go crazy without entertainment during this time."
However, COVID-19 impacted more than people's connection to music—it affected sales, too. In 2019, 827,000 vinyl albums were sold during the week of Record Store Day and were worth 11.2 percent of all vinyl sales in the first half of the year; this year, the musical event was postponed due to the global pandemic, causing vinyl sales to drop. Prior to March 12 of this year, sales were up by 45 percent, but had shrunk to 11.2 percent by July 2. Record Store Day was originally scheduled to take place April 18 but was split into three separate days—August 29, September 26, and October 24, instead. After the first Record Store Day of 2020, vinyl sales totaled 802,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, which was a 63 percent increase compared to the previous week's profits.